Law

WA Mandates Gender Neutrality in Statutes

That certainly won't result in any unintended consequences

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All "sexually outdated" references to the male gender in state statutes are to be replaced with "gender neutral language" under legislation that cleared the state House of Representatives on Tuesday, and now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

"The changes replace traditional terms like 'fisherman' with 'fisher' or 'gripman' with 'grip operator'," said a release from Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, chief sponsor the the legislation.

"Gender neutral language" has, for nearly 30 years, been the law for new statutes going onto the book.  The legislation passed Tuesday, SB 5077, directs the state Code Reviser's Office to update all laws that went on the statute books prior to 1983.  Washington follows Florida and Minnesota, which have ordered similar updates.

Imposition of gender neutrality has at times been controversial:  Such terms as police officer (replacing policeman) and firefighter (instead of fireman) are in wide use.  But political differences have arisen:  Republicans in  many legislative bodies still use the term "chairman" even if the chair is a woman.  The Democrats have adopted "committee chair" or "chairperson."

Supporters acknowledge that the bill is directed at the Boy Scouts.